When a cop goes bad, that is when a cop starts taking money, he can usually be counted on to be bad, unless there are other cops involved and even then, it’s acceptable if the price is right. But if a cop does bad things, even for bad people and then doesn’t take money for those things, there’s something wrong. It could be that he’s a rogue cop. He is and that means he can’t be counted on. Sure, if there’s something in it for him. But what if what’s in it for him is doing wrong by the wrong guys? That’s an accident waiting for a place to happen. Benny Siegel didn’t get where he is by crossing against the lights. Well, in a way he did, but he knew the rhythm of those streets. There’s something wrong with this cop, Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal).
Mob City opens on a flashback that was a pivotal point for three characters, Hecky Nash who was played by Simon Pegg til he was plugged, for free; Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke) and the boy scout future cop chief William H. Parker (Neal McDonough) who became a cop to clean them up. Flash to present-day 1947 and the cops call Billy the Boy Scout “sir.” Mickey keeps his hands, if not his nose, clean nowadays, especially when he’s hosting Benny Siegel (Edward Burns). Benny bet a bundle that a certain comedian couldn’t take a joke and Ned Stax (Milo Ventimiglia) blew his punch line with a shill heckler. This doesn’t please Sid Rothmen (Robert Knepper) who likes to know when the fix is in.
The newly dead comic’s girlfriend Jasmine Fontaine (Alexa Davalos) is a cool glass of water in a hot interrogation room. Davalos plays Fontaine like she’s playing in a vintage noir film, sultry repartee and bags packed and ready to go. An open invitation to the blues, as Tom Waits might say. Fontaine is channeling Lauren Bacall from her perch on the upper west side through the medium of Kathleen Turner’s Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It seems Fontaine is also a pretty good picture snatcher. Her work goes for a premium. Hecky got fifty large for it, the poor son of a bitch.
Sid Rothmen is my favorite character on Mob City. He looks so dour and serious when he comes up short, but when he’s on the job, he lights up. He even remembers the parmesan. Underplaying is tough as a gimmick on a show, and everybody in these dark streets of Los Angeles underdoes everyone else. Knepper, however, is the master here. He goes from Julian Beck’s Sol Weinstein in Cotton Club to Peter Falk’s Abe “Kid Twist” Reles in Murder Inc. with the slip of an apron.
Hal Morrison (Jeffrey DeMunn) really doesn’t have a bead on Teague. Mike Hendry (Jeremy Strong) his number two guy, smells something in the air, and it ain’t Ned Stax’s lavender mist. Or maybe it is. Cops have a nose for these things. What they can’t figure out is what the comedian had on Benny Siegel. It’s going to take them six episodes to find out what a good photographer Fontaine is. I hope they don’t misspell her name, though, she’s the one who got away.
Mob City is painted in dark hues except in the nightclubs. The music flows in dark waves with bright whitecaps. Frank Darabont took Alex Hajdu with him from Walking Dead to do art direction and they create a powerful look. It’s only set for six episodes, but the show wants to tell the story of the long battle between Mickey Cohen and the LAPD. One case at a time.
Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars